Those Godzilla-sized footsteps you hear in the distance? It’s the inevitable marketing drumbeat surrounding Black Friday. But this year, the noise has been amplified by earlier-than-expected promotions. Retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon have spent recent weeks disrupting the usual shopping cadence, wooing shoppers with offers that are spreading Black Friday fever over a 10-day period.
While overall spending is predicted to rise 4.1%, the National Retail Federation is anticipating a slight decrease in shopping crowds Thanksgiving weekend, with 61.1% of its survey saying they either will or may shop Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That works out to 140.1 million unique shoppers, down a smidgen from 140.3 million last year.
But the number of “maybes” -- those who say they will base their decision to brave the crowds on whether or not they see deals that tempt them -- are actually up, with 72.5 million classifying themselves as possibles, compared to 71 million last year at this time.
And eager retailers aren’t waiting until then. Best Buy, for example, is running a “Beat the Black Friday Rush” ad on its home page, promising six deals in three days. “Beat the Rush,” urges JC Penney, on its page. Walmart is splashing “Pre-Black Friday Prices” everywhere. And Amazon has been inviting shoppers to “Get Early Black Friday Deals Now” for weeks now.
“Consumers today want more than just the discounts they’ve been showered with since the start of the recession; they want exclusive offerings and a good reason to spend their discretionary budgets,” says Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based trade group.
And despite more retailers extending their opening hours on Thanksgiving Day, fewer consumers intend to hit the stores then: Just 18.3% of people in the survey will do so, compared with 23.5% last year. And in a first for the survey, the NRF asked about Small Business Saturday, and reports that 72.7% intend to shop then.